Sarah Helena Vazquez is a national motivational speaker, advocate, and author. She is a true believer that everyone can pave their life’s path by way of having dreams. Having dreams is the basis of Sarah’s achievements.
As a child, Vazquez asked God why was she had to live with cerebral palsy. Although the reason was not apparent to her then, she did know that she was someone with dreams just like any other person. Vazquez explains that it took many years for the answer as to why she has cerebral palsy to come to her.
With the support of her mother who instilled in her that she should be defined by her abilities not of her disability, today Vazquez recognizes and understands that a disability is human experience that she is blessed to have. She wants the world to recognize and respect that people with labels of disabilities experience life like other people.
Having a disability is a characteristic – it does not make up the wholeness of someone’s character. Vazquez wants the world to know that people who experience disabilities play a role in education, today’s culture, in their communities, politics, and the economy. She wants to make it known that all people can be contributors to society as long as they are given a respectable place.
While growing up in the inner City of Newark, New Jersey, Vazquez was constantly reminded that the world considered her to be “different.” Vazquez could have easily ended up living a life stifled by low achievements. But with the confidence she gained from her mother and the high expectations of her teachers, Vazquez is now regarded as one of the nation’s leading advocates for people with disabilities.
During her freshmen year of high school, Sarah’s Resource Room teacher introduced her to the art of writing. For the first time Vazquez realized that writing allowed her to express the way she felt about the world. After graduation Vazquez went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University where she double majored in English and Psychology. In 2001, Vazquez began working with the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Special Education. She helped organize and present at the Dare to Dream Youth Leadership Conferences for thousands of students with Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Vazquez also holds a Masters in Disability Studies from the City University of New New York.
Vazquez has also presented at the Council for Exceptional Children’s International Teachers’ Convention, the staff at Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf. She was one of three advocates brought to Washington, DC by the Office of Special Education Projects to present during the national celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In 2011, Vazquez released an autobiography titled “Paved Roads” which details her early life’s journey. “Paved Roads” has been read by many stakeholders within the disability world.
Vazquez currently works for non-profit organization Neighbors-Inc which helps adults who experiences disabilities find community-based supports so they can enjoy the benefits of self-directing their lives. Whether she is giving advice to transitioning youth, facilitating workshops about diverse topics relating to people who experience disability, or challenging an audience of adopt more inclusive practices in all aspects of societal life, Vazquez’s message expresses a commitment to high expectations, and her unwavering belief that people who experiences disabilities are a important part of the fabric of today’s world.
The compilation of essays that make up “Paved Roads” is an autobiography by Sarah Helena Vazquez that gives insight on Sarah’s up-bringing in one of the most urban cities of New Jersey, Newark.
She takes the reader on a journey of self-awakening and self discovery that, at the heart, is a single mother of four that encouraged Sarah to follow her dreams in spite of the lifelong realty that she experiences a disability which tends to make her trip and fall throughout many phases of her life.
Time and time again Sarah is faced with life’s obstacles which lead her to lessons of faith, love, strength, healing, and perseverance. Sarah’s life lessons stem from the relationships with her family, friends, lover, and a one-time meeting. She creates a paved road from an unpaved road and ascertains the somebody she was meant to be.
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